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Write an Obituary for Your Characters

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger on Jan 26, 2011 11:07:50 AM

Writing an obituary is one of the oldest tricks in the books when it comes to fleshing out your characters. It's an exercise I learned years ago in a college creative writing class. At first, I thought that, in addition to being a little morose, the exercise was ridiculous. I wanted to write, after all. I didn't want to waste time making up a life for a person that didn't really exist. Sure, I knew what the instructor wanted me to get out of it. She wanted me to know the characters inside and out, so I would know how they would react to any situation or development the story might throw their way. And the opportunity to get to know your characters better will always prove beneficial.


Here's what I didn't expect to get out of the exercise: I made an emotional connection with the characters when I wrote obituaries for them. Maybe it was the act of defining a life and making it matter. Maybe it was a phantom feeling of loss that I developed while writing the obituary. Or maybe the supposed bond was created because I felt like I knew the people well enough to write their obituaries. Whatever it was, the attachment I developed when writing fictional obituaries allowed me to add even more depth to the characters throughout the course of the story. I don't know if that was my instructor's goal with the obituary assignment, but it certainly was a wonderful side effect.


Why not give this exercise a try? Start by picking up a local paper and scanning the obituaries. Note how they are usually worded and their typical length, and construct obituaries for your two leading characters. Write them as a friend or family member would write them, focusing on the characters' accomplishments, loved ones, and legacies. Think about the age of the characters at the time of the obituary, and what their life circumstances might have been like at the time of their death. Remember, no one is perfect, but an obituary isn't the place to air your characters' dirty laundry. The story is where you'll get to do that by telling the events that ultimately add up to the life described in the obituary.


This is just one of countless creative writing exercises out there. What other tricks do you use to hone your craft?



Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.


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Sep 9, 2018 5:54 AM jacklambert    says:

You don't need to write any obituaries when you can write a great cv letter with the help of and it will do a great job for you. I really think that it will be a great help to everyone.